Cynthia Sanchez created and runs a blog called Oh So Pintersting, through which she provides helpful guides to using the site for personal and professional purposes, as well as consulting services for businesses seeking to build a stronger Pinterest presence.
Over a July afternoon Skype call, Cynthia shared the following advice with us on establishing a successful blog, building a consulting business, and using Pinterest to one’s greatest advantage.
How Passion Factors Into Success
One of the key reasons why Cynthia has had so much success with Oh So Pinteresting is because she is truly excited about the platform. Well before she created her blog, Cynthia found herself always referring to it again and again in conversations with friends and colleagues.
What piqued Cynthia’s interest in Pinterest was its utility as a resource. She is a big fan of not only talking about things, but doing then; she likes trying new projects and Pinterest was an excellent means through which she could discover, then experiment with, new projects and skills.
The idea to create a blog about Pinterest did not occur to Cynthia until she came across a podcast on online marketing and began to think about earning an income from online activity.
You Don’t Have to be a Pro to Create a Great Blog
Oh So Pinteresting was Cynthia’s first blog. In creating it, she had to figure out all the technical elements that accompany designing and contributing to a blog for the first time. She admits that her first few posts were horrible, but she quickly got her bearings.
The lesson to others is that one does not have to be very well versed in blogging tools and platforms to start a blog; one need only be inquisitive and willing to experiment. Cynthia was not sure that Oh So Pinteresting would become anything significant- in fact, she was perfectly happy to use the blog as an experiment and move on to something more serious once she knew what she was doing. As it happens, a second try wasn’t necessary!
The Elements of Blogging Success
In addition to passion, specialization, both regard to subject matter and a target audience, has contributed to Cynthia’s success as a blogger.
Oh So Pinteresting did not gain significant traction until she made it more business-centric. This enabled her to access a target audience (businesses that wanted to figure out how to leverage Pinterest’s power) that had yet to be adequately addressed (when Cynthia started offering advice for businesses on Pinterest, good resources on the subject were few and far between).
Cynthia made a conscious decision to focus only on Pinterest as a social network, rather than make her blog about promoting one’s business across several social networks. Personally, she felt more drawn to bloggers who specialized, so her decision was driven by the desire to provide the type of experience to readers that she herself would enjoy. This specialization enabled her to stand apart from the crowd and spared her from competing with the large number of social media marketers that already exist.
Blog Post Formats and Frequency
Cynthia has made a very conscious effort to post regularly, though her posts’ formats have evolved over time to be more in-depth and include alternate media (specifically, podcasts and videos).
Cynthia sees frequency (she posts at least twice a week and releases podcasts at the same time every week) and regularity (in format and quality) as very important elements of a blog; they give readers a clear idea of what they can expect.
Combining Blogging with Podcasting
Because Cynthia finds speaking more natural and easy than writing, podcasting has worked well for her. Sharing her Pinterest advice through iTunes has also drawn in an entirely new group of readers and potential clients.
Should you be considering presenting some of all of your information in podcast form, be sure to get involved with the podcasting community. Cynthia has received a lot of support from fellow podcasters, who have given her helpful advice and also introduced their own followers to her work. Podcasting communities she has discovered on Google+ have been especially helpful and supportive.
Incorporating YouTube and Google+ into Your Blogging Ventures
Cynthia has also experimented with YouTube, but admits that her ventures on the admittedly-flooded platform have yet to yield as many additional readers as her podcasts have. So far, Cynthia's YouTube videos fall into two categories: screencasts and Hangouts.
Cynthia uses Screenflow to record screencasts, but does not use Screenflow’s webcam feature to record herself providing instructions- for that, she uses a DSLR, then edits the footage together. The use of a DSLR to record live footage gives her videos added polish (the use of slightly better equipment can go a long way). When editing footage with her DSLR together with screencasts from Screenflow, Cynthia does not use any particularly special software: iMovie does the trick!
Cynthia plans to regularly hold Google+ Hangouts with her readers that will subsequently be shared on YouTube. Doing so kills two birds with one stone by giving her the opportunity to connect directly with readers while also creating new and useful content.
When hosting Hangouts, Cynthia recommends:
- Making it very clear to those participating that the Hangout will be recorded (they should be prepared to be on camera)
- Holding a small hangout right before the scheduled, recorded hangout (as Google Hangout's features are constantly updated, you do not want to be surprised by unexpected updates)
- Keep things simple: invite as many people as you like, but designate only a small number of people to participate in the discussion, so that participant chatter is not overwhelming
On Monetization and Quitting Your Day Job
When Cynthia first launched Oh So Pinteresting, she did not have any specific monetization plans (again, in her eyes, the blog was just a trial run, so who cares?).
Cynthia consciously chose to not place ads on her blog or put a heavy emphasis on affiliate sales for three reasons: first, she is not personally comfortable pushing products on her readers (especially if she is not a huge fan), second, she enjoys blogs that are ad free and is intent on giving her readers the best possible experience, third, she wanted to keep readers with her rather them send them off to advertisers.
Monetization first became a serious possibility for Oh So Pinteresting when Cynthia oriented her blog toward businesses (after realizing how effective the site was with driving sales and influencing purchase decisions). A clear business focus turned Oh So Pinteresting into a resource conducive to the sale of consulting services, which are, by far, the blog’s biggest source of income.
Though she started out providing consulting services on the side, Cynthia transitioned from her career as a nurse to the full time career of a blogger and consultant in September 2012. This decision was not made lightly; she and her husband carefully evaluated their savings to determine whether or not the shift would be feasible.
The transition was also by no means permanent. Cynthia agreed with her husband that she would transition back to work as a nurse if her blogging and consulting business was not showing serious signs of promise by December. Luckily, Cynthia’s business continued to do quite well and a return to nursing work was not necessary (she’s still going strong today), however it should be noted that Cynthia did think through a sound exit strategy, and she still has a career in nursing to fall back on should something ever go south with Oh So Pinteresting.
It should be noted that, while Cynthia is able to support herself from her work with Oh So Pinteresting, she still has to work incredibly hard. Were she to calculate her hourly pay, it would not be great. That said, she loves what she does and enjoys the added flexibility that accompanies self employment.
One Approach to Establishing Consulting Rates
Cynthia’s consulting rates are influenced by three factors:
- Type of work
- Additional features
Simply put, clients requesting remedial social media help are likely to be charged less than those seeking more advanced social media consulting services. Cynthia will also charge more for services that are accompanied by additional features, such as edited screencasts summarizing the highlights of a consulting session (the reasoning being that such features require more time and resources than a simple bimonthly phone call).
Marketing Your Blog Online
When it comes to promotion, Cynthia gets most of her traffic from Pinterest (which makes sense, given the subject matter of her blog). Other huge sources of new readers have been her podcast and guest appearances she has made on more established podcasts that have tens of thousands of subscribers.
Getting involved with the blogging community has definitely helped Cynthia expand the reach of Oh So Pinteresting; she remarked at multiple points in our conversation at how friendly, open, and accommodating other bloggers are when it comes to sharing information and getting the word out about a fellow blogger’s work.
The Power of Local, In-Person Marketing
Believe it or not, Cynthia’s first client came through a business card she left at a local hair salon.
She had written about the salon on her blog as she had used Pinterest to ask for the exact type of hairstyle she wanted. The salon offered to take her business card and share it with other local business owners who might be interested in her work (they like to help other businesses in the area) and voila! Several weeks later, her first client dropped her a line asking for help getting established on the social network.
Making the Most of Pinterest
One of the most common mistakes Cynthia recognizes on Pinterest is an insufficient number of boards. An active Pinterest member may not see you as worth following if you have only three or four boards, or if you have quite a few boards that only contain a small number of pins.
Cynthia also points out that there is no generic method for success on Pinterest; what works for well for online publishers is not what will work well for bakeries or local gyms. Only a small handful of tactics (using tall images over wide images, providing images that tell a clear story, etc.) apply to everyone.
With regard to images on Pinterest, captions are not mandatory, but they help a lot. It should be very clear to someone on Pinterest what a particular pin will lead to. In some cases, captions are less necessary because it is expected that a particular type of image will lead to a specific type of content (for example, it is typically assumed that images of food will lead to recipes).
In cases where it is less obvious where an image may lead, captions or juxtaposition of several images (to indicate a DIY element, for example) should be utilized.